What should have also been included

March 6th, 2012

The explorer narratives, such as those from de Vaca which describes his journey and discovery of the “New World”. This is different from John Smith or John Winthrop, who actually settled in the New World. The early explorer narratives predate Smith and Winthrop, and it is also possible to trace their writing style to de Vaca.

Notes on a Scandal

December 5th, 2011

I must admit, I enjoyed this novel, and it is extremely different from the other things that we have read so far. It may sound a little sadistic, but there is something so intriguing and enjoyable on how Barbara describes Sheba. I want to examine the first few moments of how Barbara describes Sheba, and how Heller has actually constructed the both characters.

We know from the very beginning that Barbara is going to be Sheba’s friend (its similar to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie). With this knowledge, it is interesting the way that Barbara first describes Sheba. It is rather obsessive and slightly sexual. The close attention that Barbara pays to Sheba, is a little disturbing. It is possible that the reason why Barbara begins her obsessive nature for companionship with Sheba is because of the helplessness Sheba–this is very clear in how she is taken advantage of while teaching her pottery class. Readers get to observe Sheba breaking down further as time passes in her class (but it is important to remember that readers are getting their knowledge from Barbara herself, so the account of the pottery class scene could be flawed). Thus, according to Barbara, they each occupy a different role; Barbara being imagining herself as the protector to Sheba, whom needs the protection.

Additionally, readers learn about Steven Connolly early on. It is quite funny how Barbara views this boy. While everyone (Sheba, the reporters) describe him as rather handsome, Barbara believes in the complete opposite. This speaks again to the possibility of the “flawed” narrator. Barbara clearly has an obsession with Sheba, thus everything that she says to the reader would be skewed in Barbara’s favor. Unlike a novel like Emma, the narrator’s view is very overt and not hidden. Yet, because this is the only view, readers are seemingly forced to read and believe Barbara. Yet at the same time, readers are clued in what Barbara does not realize.

The Children’s Hour

November 21st, 2011

Both Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour and John Weir’s “Where Do You See Yourself” work rather well together. There is an interesting push and pull between the two text and the secret of sexuality. It is not surprising that both texts deal with keeping homosexuality under the covers—it becomes a secret. It is the evolution of that secret that seperates the two texts apart from one another. The relationship between Karen and Martha has arguably always existed. Bar psychoanalyzing their personalities, Martha and Karen have always been close, but it is notable that Martha takes out a lot of her own stress onto Karen—she becomes very jealous (though the reason is unknown). It is not until the end when viewers realize Martha’s true feelings for Karen. Similar to Southland by Nina Revoyr (the own book I am doing my final paper on), it brings into question if we can categorize Martha’s sexuality as secret.

Compare this to “Where Do You See Yourself”. There is a similar journey of the discovery of the protagonist of Weir’s story (the name escapes me at this moment), albeit done at a much younger age. Sexuality becomes this unconscious realization of one’s self, until it is brought to their attention. With Weir’s story, sexuality was not conscious until it was the external influences of others pointing out specific stereotypes of what is means to be gay. Martha’s discovery is slightly different, as it is through the discovery of her own internal feelings for Karen (though it can be argued that it is also an external, as Karen is an external source of her love).

 

 

Reflection Blog

November 13th, 2011

Perhaps the hardest part of doing the draft prospectus is finding the “so what”. That seems to be the most integral part. One can have the best ideas, either is be simple or complex, but if you can’t figure out why it matters and the importance of the topic, there is no point of writing. This seems to be my problem when writing my draft prospectus and trying to decide on what book (s) I wanted to do. Once deciding on a book, I started to look at what interested me, and began brainstorming the patterns that I had noticed. Once I find those patterns, I try to create a a short paragraph describing the interesting patterns that I see. This gives me a general sense of what I will be writing about and what I would be looking for. Yet, the “so what” still seems to be missing from my topic. It is something that I care about, and has patterns that I can describe over and over again in detail, but it can get monotonous. So, how do I figure out the “so what”, and how can I literally get it down onto paper? How do I make the reader care about the “things” that I am writing about (without sounding cliche such as “It improves human nature, make us aware of ‘blank'”, etc)?

Scarlet Letter

November 7th, 2011

The Scarlet Letter is a depressing story that I rather enjoy (that sounds a little narcissistic, no?). The introduction of Reverend Dimmesdale is, “He was a person of very striking aspect, with a white, lofty, and impending brow, large, brown, melancholy eyes, and a mouth which, unless when he forcibly compressed it, was apt to be tremulous, expressing both nervous sensibility and a vast power of self-restraint.”. Dimmesdale is a paradox, occupying two opposing characteristics. Even the narrator notes him as “striking”. By having those large impending brows and lips that have “vast-power of self restraint”, it implies that Dimmesdale is has a very strong and powerful character–someone who might be a abrasive and intimidating. Yet, at the same time, he has “melancholy eyes” and “nervous sensibility”, implying powerlessness and a softness. These two apposing ideas creates a strange paradox that makes both the readers and the characters fear Dimmesdale even more. It is the fear of uncertainty and the inability to know what his next moves will be, as Dimmesdale can occupy two different personalities. In fact, compared to Chillingworth (who is arguably considered to be the villain of the Scarlet Letter), I find Dimmesdale more intimidating. The meekness and naivety of his appearance is a mask that hides his actual intelligence. For example, Dimmesdale is revealed to be the father of Pearl. But, the ability for him to keep this secret of sin, yet still be able to be a reverend talking about the horrors of adultery. It is the ability to have this mask on that makes me fear him.

Emma

October 30th, 2011

I am not a Jane Austen fan, but reading the supplementary article by Finch and Bowen made me appreciate it more. I think one idea that they bought up that I found interesting was the idea of both Emma as the gossiper and the narrator as the gossiper. Firstly, there seems to be a clear distinction between the two. Emma exists within the reality of the book. As we learn, she is involved in the gossip of Highbury. In fact, she seems to be the creator of gossip, as she is able to manipulate Harriet into believing that she loves Mr. Elton. She creates the illusion of truth. Yet at the same time, the assumed female narrator (I agree with Finch and Bowen in this respect also) indicates to the reader multiple times that what Emma is manipulating. The best way I can explain it is similar to the movie Inception. Emma is manipulating Harriet into believing that Mr. Elton and her share the same romantic bond (thus Emma is also manipulating herself), but the narrator is knows this fact, and manipulates both Emma and the reader into knowing Emma is wrong in “hooking up” Harriet and Mr. Elton. The narrator gossips about Emma and Harriet to the reader. In a way, this replicates what happens in reality when we think of what “gossip” means.  This duality in gossiping translates into the reality of how information is passed on. If gossip was to be reduced to nothing more than communication and the transferring of information, by the time someone hears it, it has passed through multiple interations, going through multiple people. So when Person C hears it, the information might be about Person B which was about Person A… Emma only gives us a glimpse of that process, but it is not necessarily simple. It shows the complexity in which gossip is created and passed. For example, Emma is not only the creator of the gossip, but the reinforcer. She makes Harriet believe in her love for Mr. Elton, which in turns makes her believe in it–thus, it completes the cycle and starts all over again. Even someone who might be on the periphery like Mr. Knightly factors into this. The very idea of gossip would not exist if he was not there to label it. He is aligned with the narrator in that way, with his ability to point out this fallacy, and notice Emma’s gossip and manipulation. If there was no one to notice it, it wouldn’t exist.

Questions on Dillon Article

October 24th, 2011

1. What is the relationship between the history of the Haitian Revolution and Secret Histories–how accurate/ true to history is the Secret History to actual historical knowledge, and how much authorial rights did Sansay take?

2. What are some of the complications between the creole woman and the white woman?

3. Looking at the genderization of both men and women, what role to men and women play against each other and within their own gendered community?

Secret History: or, The Horrors of St. Domingo

October 17th, 2011

I think the form of the “novel” itself is interesting, written as letters and between two different people (the sisters Mary and Clara). Readers (including myself) would associate the narrator of each story to be the same as Sansay. Yet, the questions comes up on the reliability of the speaker.

Firstly, this text is enormously based on the historical context of the Haitian Revolution, as indicated by Dillon. For example, something as simple the headscarf that the women wear is soaked deeply in the history of the sexuality of the Creole women. There is a clear tie between what is mentioned in the book by the narrator Mary and Clara, and the actual history. Yet, as Dillion mentions, Mary could have been an alias of Sansay, but because she is writing from two different perspectives, there must be some kind of fictitiousness. So the question is, how far can the reader trust the narrator and the author, and how should this text be read? Reading it myself, its easy to slip into the story an start believing Mary, and all of the secrets (the “gossip”–which interestingly is usually between women). Because of the letter form, its easy to believe they are real. If this is the case, can reader consider these secrets/gossip to be real? Can the “secrets” be trusted by the reader? I can only imagine readers at the time learning about “scandalous nature” of the Creole women.

Journal of the Plague Year

October 1st, 2011

This “journal” was quite boring (especially when compared to Lady Windermere’s Fan). The ideas of rumors and gossip has parallels with the idea of the spreading Plague. Defoe lists the “Bills”; the statistics of who has died. By following the statistics, one can almost track the spread of the plague from point zero (which would be the Frenchmen Defoe mentions). There is a steady increase from point zero leading to hundred of people a day. This spread is similar to what I consider to be the spread of gossip and rumor. It starts at point zero, and it is transferred (like the plague) by some kind of human contact-in this case speech. And like the plague, it begins to grow exponentially. Defoe’s text also lists steps that the aristocracy attempted to take to slow/stop the plague (though many modern readers would know that these attempts would be not entirely successful. Again, this is paralleled with the stereotypes of rumor and gossip, where there are always unsuccessful attempts to stop it.

Additionally, I mentioned earlier that Defoe lists a lot of statistics. These statistics, regardless of their accuracy gives a more effective and impactful story. It forces the reader to understand the severity of the plague–it gives a sense or reality, a “oh wow” reaction. Yet at the same time, it is these statistics which cause the downfall of this text. If these statistics are proved to be incorrect, the whole journal would be rendered fallible, and it would fall apart. Defoe’s journal is based almost entirely on these bills.

Lady Windermere’s Fan

September 25th, 2011

Personally, I enjoyed this story more than Othello, probably because it is not only easier to read, but also because of the humor that is present in the story. Regardless, one thing that really stuck out to me was Cecil Graham describing the different between gossip and scandal. He notes, ” Oh! Gossip is charming! History is merely a gossip. But scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.” Graham is making a clear distinction between gossip and scandal. What is interesting the connection he draws between gossip and scandal. History is usually associated with fact and truth, and by drawing these parallels, it implies that “gossip” is speaking the truth. Now, compare this to scandal, which is “gossip with morality”. Thus, scandal is speaking the truth (“gossip”) but the person adds in their own moral values and ideas. It is gossip with opinion. This distinction is interesting, because it defends and moralizes gossip (thus Graham is able to defend himself from “being a hypocrite). Gossip becomes an accepted from of conversation. It becomes associated with what the higher class do, and is thought not to harm anyone (“gossip is charming!”). Yet, if gossip is only history, does that destroy what gossip itself means? We normally associate gossip with the negative, but because gossip is history which is fact, gossip becomes only talk and conversation. Graham essentially destroys the modern meaning of gossip, taking away it’s modern negative meaning.